Archive for recycling

Rag Pickers

Posted in Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2012 by javedbabar

Sami let rag pickers work the Transfer Station’s bins. He wasn’t really allowed to, as it reduced the waste’s recycling value. However it could be termed a grey area, as people were allowed to “retract and repurpose extant waste”. He had skim-read regulations and found that phrase. He could quote it if questioned.

He called out, “Jamz, how’s it going over there?”

A thin boy in a red hoody, crouching in a bin, straightened up and waved. He cupped his hands to his mouth and said, “A good day so far, Mr Sami. Let’s hope it gets even better!”

Sami loved these kids. He saw them most days after school, analysing the day’s new arrivals, before the waste was shipped out the next morning. At weekends they were usually away, helping their families with odd jobs around town.

They were poor kids from the trailer park. The rich-poor division in Lucerne was extreme. It was often referred to as the professional-unprofessional problem, but in truth it was more about privileged and unprivileged members of society, if such a thing existed.

A famous British Prime Minister had said, “There is no such thing as society”. Sami’s teacher, Guru Baba, had wanted to meet this lady to ask her what she meant by that, but she had recently died. He referred to her as an “anti-role model”.

When Sami worked on film crews, he had learnt about the effect called persistence of vision, where an image remains on the retina for a short period after its source is removed. This effect is used to create the illusion of continuous motion between frames in movies.

There was a similar effect in societies called persistence of privilege. Studies showed that children of wealthy people were physically and mentally healthier, wealthier, and ultimately happier in life. You can’t blame the parents, as their biological imperative is to promote their genes, and you can’t blame the kids for having good role models, and for enjoying their lives. Who can you blame then for children picking rags daily after school?

Jamz was the rag pickers’ unofficial spokesman. He came over later and said, “We’re all done for today. There’s nothing much out there, but slim pickings are better than thin air. Thanks again.”

There was an informal agreement that rag pickers would not take the right materials from bins, only misplaced materials. They took plastic from metal bins, metal from wood bins, wood from fibre bins, and fibre from paper bins. This cleaned the waste stream, making it easier to sort later; less labour was needed to dismantle complex consumer products, such as cell phones, and there were fewer breakdowns at the processing centre. So the value of materials lost was recouped in efficiency. Sami felt it was a case of win-win, or maybe bin-bin.

Sami began training Jamz on the 3D Unit. He taught him to prototype products, print components, and create unusual gifts. At Christmas, he called the rag pickers together and said that he and Jamz would make them each a model of anything they wanted.

At first they were shy, but then began to speak up.

“A dad.”

“A mum.”

“A house.”

“A car.”

“Money.” This wasn’t allowed at the 3D Unit, and would set The Authority’s alarm bells ringing.

“A better future.”

Village Facility

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 2, 2012 by javedbabar

Sami was locked out of AMP Co. Maybe the lock was stuck, so he tried his key again, turning it both clockwise and counter-clockwise, but without success. He rang the bell twice and banged on the door. He opened the mailbox in case there was a new key in there, but there wasn’t. He called Alfred’s phone but didn’t get through, then walked around the back but that door also was closed.

“Thanks for all your help,” Alfred had said to him last week. “Next week, we’ll be ready to open the store. Advanced 3D printing will at last be available to everyone!”

Maybe Alfred had been so busy chasing technical progress that he had forgotten to pay his mortgage and business rates. Had the bank instructed repo men to remove his equipment and lock up the place?

Sami heard a sliding sound somewhere above him. It was Alfred at a second floor window of the old general store that was now his 3D fabrication lab.

Sami called up, “Hey Alfred! Let me in.”

“I’m sorry Sami, I can’t let you in. You won’t believe what’s happened. The Authority has declared my lab a National Strategic Asset; it’s been nationalized and is now closed to the public.”

“You’re kidding me!”

Alfred opened the window further and leaned out a little. “I am sorry, I’m not. I am now a government employee and must obey their protocols. I can’t let you in.”

Sami was a peaceful guy, but right now he wanted to climb and haul Alfred out, maybe throw him out. “But what about our work together? We’ve spent weeks preparing for the launch.”

“It was really good of you to help me, Sami, but I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do. The Authority heard about my technology.” Sami knew it had better capabilities than fused filament or deposition, laser sintering, powder bed, lamination, sterolithography, digital light processing, or anything else currently available.

Alfred continued, “They declared it a National Strategic Asset, and banned me from revealing it to the general public. That’s it.”

Sami wasn’t Alfred’s business partner; he wasn’t even an employee. He was simply a keen amateur helping out, who had become very involved in the testing phase of Alfred’s printer. Together they had produced another printer, a worm, a baby girl (now adopted by Alfred’s family), a 4D crab, holy objects and programmable matter. They were fully ready to open the facility, and now this!

“There is some good news though,” said Alfred, waving his arms in the window like a broken little windmill. “The Authority does want a public interface for the technology, to introduce it gradually. They want to extend their 3 R’s philosophy, following the Proximity Principle to reduce the waste stream, and achieve responsible self-sufficiency at a sub-regional level…”

Too much jargon already, thought Sami. You can tell he’s become a bureaucrat.

Alfred continued, “…by producing, transforming, consuming and recycling on site indefinitely. They asked me to run a facility at the Transfer Station but I am too busy, so I suggested you could do it instead.”

Just then a text came through on Sami’s phone. It was from The Authority. It said that he was starting work at the Transfer Station’s new 3D Unit next week.

“What about my job as Guru Baba’s assistant?”

“My friend, it looks like you have been repurposed.”

Hydrostatic

Posted in Alternative Energy, Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2012 by javedbabar

The new owners of the Lucerne Valley Hotel were forward thinking. They wanted to get ahead of the regulations and the competition, so embarked on a programme of sustainable renovation focussed on recycling and energy efficiency. Grants from The Authority made the project viable.

They began with structural adjustments. They removed non-load bearing walls and replaced them with expansive windows. Their passive solar strategy would allow more sunshine to enter the building, reducing both lighting and heating bills. Appropriately angled overhangs were constructed so the sun didn’t boil guests in summer.

They added extra insulation to retain both heat and cold, according to seasonal requirements, and sunk pipes filled with refrigerant into the ground to create a geothermal field. On the roof they added solar-electric panels, solar hot water tubes, and a small wind turbine. In the basement were a methane digester and wood pellet heater, plus stations to recharge the hotel’s electric cars. They were confident of a Class One Superior Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER).

The Energy Auditor had many good things to say about the Lucerne Valley Hotel. However, he said that he could only give them a Class Two SEER. Water – more than sun, wind, methane or wood – was the hot topic these days. The province sold most of its fresh water to America. What remained was a valuable commodity that must be preserved. The Energy Auditor’s report said, “Overall, a credible performance, but evidence of much water wastage. If this can be addressed within thirty (30) days, the establishment will receive a Class One SEER.”

The new owners were keen to gain this Class One rating. They planned to make it their Unique Selling Proposition (USP) at the heart of all marketing activity.  It would boost the current message of “Lucerne Valley Hotel. Your home is our home, that’s why we treat the earth right.”

TJ was asked to look into the matter. He wondered if it was possible to create a completely sealed environment where all water was recycled and reused. He looked at the logistical methodologies of Bedouins and astronauts, who seemed far apart but shared the same respect for water. To both it meant life or death, so they conserved and reused all fluids possible.

How would this translate to the hotel? He explored the categories of water running through hotel systems: blue (drinking), grey (washing), brown (soiled), green (nutrient-rich), light (ionized), and heavy (irradiated) waters. How best to combine them into a hydrostatic system?

The staff and guests added complexity. Each had different human/android proportions with particular humidity and hydration needs. Sealing water into a hotel super system may seem strange. People would feel rusty inside, which was a common psychological/technological condition. And too much focus on water wasn’t right. Humans were evolving into robots. Why make them devolve into fish?

Soul Capture

Posted in Alternative Energy, Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2012 by javedbabar

Bobby’s mind was being expanded by the presentations at the Devils’ Den. It was definitely the best event at the New Ideas Show in Lucerne’s glassy community centre, commonly called the Transparent Temple.

He’d sat among the audience hoping to get some inspiration for starting his own business, but instead he was becoming a little scared. Floating cities, underwater container houses, head plug-ins, and programmable matter – the ideas seemed impossible, or at least unbelievable. Was that why it was called Devil’s Den? Had they made pacts with the devil?

A guy he recognized walked towards the stage; he managed the recycling facility on the edge of the village. Surely his idea would be reasonable. He was a down to earth guy.

The host Collette held her nose as he approached. She said, “Didn’t you bathe this week, my friend?”

He smiled to himself, and then at everyone. “Sorry about that. I just came from work at the transfer station. It’s an occupational hazard.”

Panel member and social media activist Juno Osh drew back in distaste. The audience laughed. Low-tech pioneer Amisha Jordan however was pleased, and said, “It’s good to see a real working man in here. Not just a load of pencil heads.”

“Enough flirting, trash junkies,” said Collette. “I know business sometimes gets dirty, but there’s no need for business people to be dirty.”

The audience booed and the transfer station manager dropped his smile. “Only joking,” she said. She couldn’t afford to lose public goodwill for she had no talents; she was only famous for being famous. “Please introduce yourself and tell us about your idea.”

“My name is Toby, and my business is recycling. These days we try to minimize waste. The best thing of course is to not make it in the first place – you can reduce your product packaging by wise buying choices, and even eliminate it by going to bulk stores. But there’s still plenty of trash. That’s the nature of a modern capitalist economy. I noticed a while ago that at our transfer station, we reuse every resource – card, paper, plastic, metal, wood, glass – except one.”

The audience was curious. Someone called out, “What’s that, pal?”

Toby said magisterially, “Ourselves. Our bodies are cremated, buried, thrown into the sea, and in some cultures chopped up and left as a final act of compassion and generosity for wild beasts to devour.”

Collette said, “Urrggh!”

“Valuable minerals are wasted. And more importantly, valuable experiences that are encoded in our cells. I have developed technology that can compare original and final DNA in terms of quality and quantity, and measure the relative effects of nature and nurture.”

“Can you actually do that?” said Juno, suddenly interested.

“Well not fully, only fifty percent of it.”

“Well I could get the other fifty percent from my social networks. I think we can do business.”

He wasn’t the first amateur entrepreneur led astray by Juno Osh. She’d captivated many with dreams of social media glory but her rewards were rarely tangible. Her promises were made but not kept. They were as vaporous as souls.

Toy Bin

Posted in Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , on April 30, 2012 by javedbabar

The dustmen used to come on Monday mornings, but now it was Wednesday afternoons. Recycling used to be weekly, but service was now reduced to every two weeks. They used to take stuff from outside your door, and now they wanted you to bring it to the road. What the hell! Jenny was annoyed by this constant changing. While everybody else followed regular patterns, why did municipal services just follow their whims? It was ridiculous!

The dustmen were a curious bunch. They were a mix of young men and old men, with nothing in between. The older guys drove trucks and organized collection; younger guys mostly humped bins. They hadn’t taken this job for glamour, and wanted to get finished as early as possible, so didn’t talk much. They knew that the most important jobs in life are mundane. While other people tried to add glamour to superficial tasks like counting or selling or arranging this and that, the dustmen just got on with theirs.

Jenny asked the driver why their schedule kept changing. He stroked his beard and said, “I don’t know. We just follow The Authority’s instructions. There’s a shortage of garbage trucks, and last week we lost one.”

She said, “Lost one? Do you mean that it’s been taken elsewhere? Or has it gone missing?”

“I’m not sure. I’ve just heard that we lost one.”

Jenny shook her head and said, “Is that why you’re always changing trucks? This week you’ve got a – what do you call it, where you throw the trash in the back? – okay,  a rear loader? Last week there was one flipping the bins over the top of the cab – okay, front loader – isn’t that dangerous? The week before there was a side loader – is that right? Before that I’ve seen the one with the long sucky tube. The pneumatic collector? And there’s one with a long metal arm – what’s that? – yes, the grapple truck.”

“Well Miss, you’re a keen observer of municipal solid waste collection. We just come out with the truck we’re given. That’s it.” He waited for a response but Jenny didn’t say anything. “Okay, Miss we’d better move on. We need to get the lower Village finished by twelve. Good day to you.”

As he drove off, Jenny realized that she’d missed this week’s recycling collection, and they wouldn’t be back for another two weeks. She didn’t have a car so couldn’t drive out to the transfer station, which was five kilometres out of town.

Because their pooch Prince had chewed up her daughter’s dolls, she would no longer play with them. There was no point in giving them to the thrift store with mutilated faces and missing limbs, so best to send them for recycling. Jenny bashed the back of the truck and the driver stopped immediately. He jumped out, concerned. “Is everything alright?” he said. “Did I hit something?” She asked if he would take the dolls for recycling.

He said, “We only deal with solid waste. Recycling is another crew. But I’ll tell you what, slip them under these rails at the side of the truck, and I’ll drop them off at the end of our run.”

Jenny wedged the dolls beneath the rails. One-eyed Sally, armless Dolly, and one-legged Heather were old friends and nestled in together. Headless Anne-Marie and unrecognizable Dimples – her face mauled completely and seeming rough mincemeat – squeezed around them, and head-only Yazz was no trouble at all. Jenny couldn’t help waving to the dolls as the truck pulled away.

As the garbage truck continued its run, people smiled at the dolls and added their own unwanted toys. Black, Chinese, and plus-size dolls appeared. There were cowgirls, flappers, fairies, and a range of “inspirational internet-entrepreneur” dolls. Who’s got space for old toys these days? Who even has time to play with new ones? Their children’s lives were virtual now, and their toys were also virtual. Non-existent.

Parents with boys threw out unwanted action figures. Action men, space men, warriors of light, and glow-eyed demons, some hideously cackling, joined the unwanted doll ranks. There were neon robots and an array of Transformers, some of their hybrid apparatus seeming part of the truck. Many were really good toys, just no longer appreciated.

The garbage truck took the waste for composting, incineration, landfill, recycling, and windrow composting, but the toys looked so lovely – as if all playing together – that the dustmen left them arranged on the truck. As they performed their collections on other days, the number of toys grew, and they added extra rails to hold them. Large dinosaurs, teddies, and monsters were wedged into rails on top of the truck, which now seemed a mobile grandstand, but with circus performers rather than audience filling the seats.

As provincial waste management regulations progressed, garbage went increasingly for alternative treatments. Anaerobic digestion, bioconversion and biodrying, gasification, and mechanical heat treatments, pyrolosis, Upflow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket Digestion, and to waste autoclaves. But the toys stayed put and began to fill the inside of the truck too.

New laws required all garbage be recycled. Nothing could be disposed at all. The garbage truck was repurposed as the province’s first mobile exchange service for unwanted toys, called Toy Bin. It toured poorer communities, where toys were still appreciated, and where they created new lives and worlds.